Smart Thinking

Three ways to expand your mind this March

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Spring is the season of self-improvement. Here's how to make the most of London's smart thinking culture scene this month

Wherever you get big cities, you get big ideas. From debates in 18th century coffee houses, to the salons of Victorian ladies in Mayfair, or even Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s infamous Granita pact – whatever the sector or timeframe, London is a melting pot of imagination and creativity.

Of course, we all benefit from these light bulb moments. Getting to eat delicious food in interesting places, being able to visit galleries showing the latest in contemporary art, living near the cut and thrust of ideological debate, and even simply by living in one of the most economically vibrant places in the country.

Even so, there’s no substitute for absorbing knowledge and creativity up close and personal. It might seem old-school to take some time out to visit a talk, lecture or workshop, but there’s much to be learned in this city – and who knows what bright ideas you might come up with yourself, after being inspired by one of these?

Franklin Till, Radical Matter bookDesign debate

There’s been a revolution in the world of ‘making’ – sustainability and our attitudes towards consumption are changing both the way things are made, and how we buy, possess and dispose of them. If you’re interested to know what the future might hold, then design studio FranklinTill’s new book Radical Matter: Rethinking Materials for a Sustainable Future is a good place to start. In it, they’ve collated designers and creative enterprises around the world who are coming up with particularly interesting models of consumption that could change the way we live.

Better still, you can hear some of them at a collaborative event hosted by the Design Museum. FranklinTill co-founder Caroline Till will be chairing a panel including Caroline Collet, Professor in Design for Sustainable Futures at Central Saint Martins and bio-fabrication pioneer, James Michael Shaw, an award-winning product designer. There’ll also be material researcher, Zoe Laughlin, co-founder of the Institute of Making at University College London, and Paul Smyth, an artist, technologist and co-founder of Makerversity weighing in.

Tuesday 13 March, Tickets are £10 (£7.50 for concessions and Design Museum members), available here

The Corner RoomLiterary salon

If you like your stomach stretched at the same time as your brain, head to one of Voices At The Table’s curated evenings of readings and performances. Centring around food (both literally and metaphorically), their first salon of the year is a collaboration with Chef Craig Johnson (formerly of Newington Table, Pavilion and Elliot’s), who will prepare a special three-course dinner for guests. The evening will be peppered with a mix of readings and performances, from speakers seated among the diners at long tables.

The March edition features Rowley Leigh, British chef, restaurateur and journalist, reading an extract from The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields; Meera Sodha, chef, food writer and author or two best-selling cookbooks, reading a piece commissioned for At The Table magazine entitled ‘Blood, Sweat and Turmeric’; Livia Franchini, poet and translator from Tuscany, reading a series of poems specially commissioned for the evening on soup-making as a healing ritual, and Nina Caplan, arts, wine and travel journalist reading from her new book The Wandering Vine: Wine, the Romans & Me.

Wednesday 28 March, The Corner Room, Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, Bethnal Green, E2 9NF

Doors open 6.45pm, dinner served at 7pm

Tickets via At TheTable, £55 includes the performances, a three-course meal and wine throughout the evening, atthetable.co.uk

Expand your mind, LondonWine Conversations

If you like your wine, and want to learn more about the culture surrounding it, Borough Wines and Beers series, Tête à Tête, is a good place to start. Master of Wine Liam Stevenson is the mind behind the selection of wines that guests can taste – a mix of cooler climate regional wines, lower in alcohol or lighter in style, and full-bodied bottles from regions celebrated for the power and potency of their vintages. While swirling the good stuff in your glass, listen to Guardian wine writer Fiona Beckett explore the role alcohol plays in making the character of the wines we drink, our changing relationship with alcohol, and what this means for the future.

22 March, 7.30pm to 9.15pm, The Old Cinema, 160 Chiswick High Road, W4 1PR

Tickets £10, boroughwines.co.uk